January 18

How happy are you? Sustainable Seattle kicks off local happiness initiative, asks community for input



How happy are Seattle-ites? Is personal happiness something that can even be measured?

Local non-profit Sustainable Seattle says yes. And they intend to do so.

In order to measure the regional sustainability of the Pacific Northwest, Sustainable Seattle, in partnership with Take Back Your Time and the Compassionate Action Network, has launched the Seattle Area Happiness Initiative (SAHI).

One of the major roles of the initiative is to measure the happiness of Seattle’s residents using something called the Gross National Happiness Index (GNH), a model developed in Bhutan, and now employed in Brazil and Canada. The GNH is measured using surveys and objective indicators. Sustainable Seattle is asking community members to help the organization gather data by participating in an online survey that will attempt to measure happiness using the nine domains of happiness determined by researches worldwide and used in the index—psychological well-being, health, time balance, community vitality, education, cultural vitality, environmental quality, governance and material well-being.

“You get what you measure,” Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien said in a statement released yesterday. “For too long we’ve measured the wrong things—Gross Domestic Product doesn’t tell us whether we have a good quality of life or a sustainable society.  This survey, which includes nine domains of well-being, not just income, is a good way to start measuring the important things we care about, so we can actually achieve them.”

“We’re thrilled to take the lead in this exciting project,” Sustainable Seattle’s Executive Director Laura Musikanski said in a statement. “This year, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our regional indicator work, which from the beginning was a model for the entire world. By adding subjective indicators of well-being to the many important objective indicators we have identified over the years, we can provide a truly powerful look at how well we are doing in all areas of life. We hope the survey leads to positive action for greater happiness, social justice, and both economic and environmental health.”

All participants who complete the survey will receive an instant well-being score for each of the nine domains, and will be able to compare results with other who have taken the survey. From the website:

You will find that the 135 questions in this survey will encourage you to think about your life in new ways and about what you can do to be happier.

The survey takes an estimated 20 to 30 minutes to complete, and it cannot be stopped and started over later, so participants are advised to take the survey when they have the time to finish it all the way through.

“It takes a while to complete because it’s comprehensive,” John de Graaf, executive eirector of Take Back Your Time said. “But you’ll find it’s worth the time because it really makes you think about your life and how to improve it. It’s part of an exciting new effort to add quality of life and sustainability to our assessments of progress. It’s being used in many countries now, but this is the first opportunity for Americans to take the survey. The results will be useful to individuals, organizations and policy makers who want to base their efforts to increase well-being on solid science and comprehensive information.”

As for privacy, Sustainable Seattle says no personal data will be released publicly.

Overall data from this survey will be analyzed and provided to media but your individual data will not be revealed to others. We ask for demographic data so we can analyze overall results, but we do not ask for your name, address, etc. Your privacy will be protected.

We follow the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC (European Union): Personal data collected for this survey is used only for the purposes of the project and as a part of an aggregate. All data is kept secure and individual responses are not shared.

Want to hear more about the project? Take Back Your Time’s John de Graaf was on KUOW’s Conversation with Ross Reynolds on Friday. Listen to that story here.

Read more on the SAHI project here. Read the organization’s blog here. Take the survey here.


Compassionate Action Network, SAHI, Seattle Area Happiness Initiative, survey, Sustainable Seattle, Taking Back Your Time

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